While the world teeters on the brink of recession, Hong Kong youngsters are spending thousands of dollars playing their cards right. They are laying out anything up to $4,000 a month for a game called Magic, which has swept the world in recent years. 'Beginners have to spend huge sums of money on the cards. I spent $3,000 to $4,000 a month just to collect the desired 'rare cards',' said 25-year-old Ng Wing-kwong, who has been playing the game for more than a year. The Magic card addict's expenditure is far from exceptional. At one Magic card competition, some 350 enthusiasts - most of them teenage students - confessed to spending an average of $2,000 a month collecting their best combination or 'combo'. 'The biggest attraction is competitions. You can't learn better than by competing with others. I'm also hooked by the game's countless variations and its ability to keep up-to-date,' said Cheung Chun-lap, an electrical and electronic engineering graduate from the University of Hong Kong. The 21-year-old has played the game since Form Six and is familiar with the five-centimetre thick book of instructions. Mr Cheung has attended several international Magic card competitions and was once represented Hong Kong in Singapore. 'Magic: The Gathering', to give the game its full name, is now available in many languages. The Chinese version has also been introduced. Magic cards were invented by American mathematician Richard Garfield in 1993. It spread from the United States to Europe, and then to Asia in 1998. Players have to choose 60 cards out of 10,000 to build up their best combination. They use the combo to 'fight' opponents, following magic commands on the cards. Players have to trade or exchange cards to get the rarest but most powerful ones. Small wonder that it is such an expensive hobby.